by Robert Goodin
Top Shelf Productions, 2008
This week I was going to review either this or Lady Death Origins Annual #1. I chose this one, but both books are about breasts. I was a bit surprised that one of the two was even published, but it’s not the one you think.
This is basically a 30-page “floppy” containing three stories.
The first is “The Man Who Loved Breasts.” Often when you pick up a book with a title like this, you’re afraid it’s going to be some kind of cop out, and there aren’t actually going to be any breasts in it. Don’t worry, there are plenty. This story begins in Madmen-era 1963, with a depressed desk slave who dreams of quitting his job and going out to do something he loves. He struggles to find himself until he realizes (on page 5 of 18) that what he loves are breasts, an interest which is hilariously treated as unique to him. So he becomes a specialist bra manufacturer, who is sincerely sympathetic to women’s various needs: unevenly sized breasts, different nipple shapes, breast cancer survivors. In one remarkable page, he lists off the occupations of the relatives of women he’s made bras for under drawings of them only wearing bras to weirdly discombobulating effect. The bra-burning of the late 60s leads to a decline in his business, but in the end he still finds his paradise in the least/most likely place. The story is weird, absurd, and funny, but it took a while to get there. Once Goodin gets to the juice five pages in, I couldn’t look away, but for those first four pages, I was kind of, like, “What is the point of this?”
The second story is called “George Olavatia: Amputee Fetishist,” a 9-pager in which the title character — about to give a sperm sample — tries to get some highly specialized “reading material” from the man behind the clinic window. Like the previous story, eventually I was laughing out loud, but despite the title, it’s not until page three that things take a turn for the bizarre.
“A 21st Century Cartoonist in King Arthur’s Court” is a 3-pager in which the author is unable to explain anything about the modern world to King Arthur and finally says: “I just like to draw strangely sexual comics.” This story is okay. A few weeks ago I reviewed the latest issue of Optic Nerve from Adrian Tomine. Tomine did a self-parody at the end of his comic too, but you can understand it with a cartoonist that’s been around that long. Here it comes off as kind of unnecessarily self-important.
Goodin’s art chops are decent enough, but they are nothing to write home about. The second two stories feature basically the same panels over and over again. But that’s fine. They serve the function they are supposed to. About half the comic is really funny. All in all, this seemed like a really good webcomic. Consume and forget, mostly.
I can understand how something like Lady Death Origins Annual #1 gets published (though I don’t like that it does). I know nothing about Goodin, and this is in no way meant to be disrespectful to the quality of his work, but I don’t understand how this thing got published by Top Shelf and in this format. A webcomic or a 120-page tpb (more “substance”) I could understand, but a floppy for an unknown cartoonist? When I reviewed Optic Nerve, I also talked about the death of the indy solo anthology floppy and lamented the loss. I mean, I like being able to go into the shop with five bucks and picking up an alternative comic. In this case that still felt like slightly too big of a commitment for what you get. I’m looking forward to seeing Goodin do something longer in the future.
Kumar Sivasubramanian is the writer of Weird Crime Theater.